The youtube clip is from a very interesting Horizon program I watched recently, about the role of the temporal lobes in religious experiences. Rather than provide another Ramachandran clip, I thought I'd show what happened when Richard Dawkins visited `Michael Persinger's lab. Persinger is a neuroscientist interested in what happens when you apply magnetic fields to the brain and his work suggests that such fields might be implicated in religious experiences (and other weird experiences including sleep paralysis, alien abductions etc).
Although Dawkin's experiences in the lab aren't that interesting, you've got to love his matter of fact attitude to it all. Finally, Susan Blackmore visited Persinger's lab (for a different Horizon program) and had an altogether more interesting time:
Something seemed to get hold of my leg and pull it, distort it, and drag it up the wall. It felt as though I had been stretched half way up to the ceiling. Then came the emotions. Totally out of the blue, but intensely and vividly I suddenly felt angry - not just mildly cross but that clear-minded anger out of which you act - but there was nothing and no one to act on. After perhaps ten seconds, it was gone. Later, it was replaced by an equally sudden attack of fear. I was terrified - of nothing in particular. The long term medical effects of applying strong magnetic fields to the brain are largely unknown, but I felt weak and disoriented for a couple of hours after coming out of the chamber.
Of course, I knew that it was all caused by the magnetic field changes, but what would people feel if such things happened spontaneously in the middle of the night? Wouldn't they want, above all, to find an explanation, to find out who had been doing it to them? If someone told them an alien was responsible and invited them to join an abductees' support group, wouldn't some of them seize on the idea, if only to reassure themselves that they weren't going mad?
Religion is ultimately a boring question. There is no god and the more we learn about the brain, the more we come to understand that sometimes things happen, which seem to have far more significance than they actually deserve. Why don't people understand that it is a frailty of man, not divine intervention?Go Top